Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff poses for a photo, Thursday, February 14, 2019 in Ottawa. A task force to help Canada’s coal workers adjust to life after coal power says is warning that support for action against climate change will be at risk if Ottawa doesn’t embed policies to help coal towns transition. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Support for climate change action could wane if no help for coal workers: report

There are 16 coal-fired generating stations left in Canada, and nine mines for the ‘thermal coal’ that feeds them

The federal government has to prepare communities that are economically dependent on coal for a future when their products aren’t needed if it wants to maintain public support for climate-change action, says a task force on making that transition work.

The Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities is filing its final report today, with 10 broad recommendations.

Underlying many of them is a warning that not easing the anxieties of workers who will be affected by a planned phaseout of coal-fired generating plants will come with a political, and possibly even environmental, cost.

“Widespread support for continued climate-change action is at risk of eroding if strong just-transition provisions are not embedded in climate-change and labour policy,” the report reads.

The task force wants the policies written into legislation to make them difficult to undo and to provide longer-term certainty for the affected workers and communities.

Canada has ordered that all existing coal plants be closed or converted to natural gas before 2030. It is part of Canada’s plan to reduce emissions to 70 per cent of what they weir in 2005, by 2030. In 2016, the most recent year emissions statistics are available, coal accounted for nine per cent of all Canada’s emissions and 71 per cent of emissions from generating electricity.

The task force, set up by the federal government in 2018, has spent the last 10 months hearing from people in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the four provinces that still use coal as a source of electricity.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress and one of the co-chairs of the task force, said the body’s very existence is proof the government understands it “can’t simply phase out the industry without thinking of the workers and the communities.”

The task force wants funding to research the impact of the coal phase-out, local transition centres to help provide retraining, relocation and social supports, a pension-bridging program to help workers nearing the ends of their careers make it to retirement without hurting their pensions, and eventually a job bank to help match the skills of coal workers with potential new job opportunities.

Yussuff said this is a unique opportunity because the coal industry is being phased out over time. Most often communities get very little, if any, warning that a plant is shutting down, such with as the closures of asbestos mines in Quebec or the almost overnight closure of the Newfoundland cod fishery in 1992, which threw 40,000 fishers out of work.

“All of those were not planned or anticipated,” he said. “This is not going to happen overnight. We’ve still got some time.”

READ MORE: Coal power in Canada must disappear by the end of 2029, new report says

There are 16 coal-fired generating stations left in Canada, and nine mines for the “thermal coal” that feeds them — five in Alberta and two each in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. About 42,000 workers are employed directly or indirectly in coal mining, though some of them are in the metallurgical coal industry, which supplies the coal used to make steel.

Yussuff said the jobs that need to be replaced are high-paying ones often with salaries ranging from $60,000 to $100,000 a year.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Work begins on Sooke’s Evergreen Centre expansion

More trees will be planted to replace those lost

Researchers head out from Sidney to explore Canada’s largest underwater volcano

The Explorer Seamount is as large as Greater Vancouver and full of previously undiscovered species

RCMP confirm foul play in death of 60-year-old Metchosin man

Police believe crime an isolated incident

Prolific offender found sleeping in Oak Bay resident’s car

Of 106 calls to 911 last week, eight were abandoned

RCMP identify Sidney bank robbery suspect, believe he is still on Vancouver Island

Warrant issued for arrest of North Vancouver man for TD Bank robbery

VIDEO: Dashcam video captures moment Victoria cyclist struck

Police seeking cyclist captured in video

UPDATE: Youth seen with gun at Nanaimo mall, suspect now in custody

Woodgrove Centre shut down during police incident

B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

Last known case of human rabies in B.C. was 16 years ago

Crown recommends up to two-year jail term for former Bountiful leader

Crown says sentence range should be 18 months to two years for Bountiful child removal case

VIDEO: Wolf spotted swimming ashore on northern Vancouver Island

Island wolf population estimated at under 150 in 2008, says VI-Wilds

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Canadian is detained in China on drug allegations: Chinese government

Detention of a Canadian in China comes as part a diplomatic dispute triggered by arrest of Huawei exec Meng Wanzhou

Rare white ravens spotted again in mid-Island

Nature photographer Mike Yip said mysterious birds back in Coombs area

Most Read